Thousands of goods-laden trucks are stuck at Benapole, as the imported goods cannot be unloaded due to a shortage of space at the land port. This causes huge losses for businessmen.
However, the railway through the Benapole port is showing hope for traders, who are relieved to use this way to import goods. This is also increasing the government's revenue earnings.
Sources at the Benapole port said India stopped import-exports by road and railway through Petrapole port in India and the Benapole port in Bangladesh on March 22 to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Thousands of goods-laden trucks, waiting to enter the Benapole port, were stuck at a time. Later, when the Covid-19 situation normalised a little, import-export through all the other ports in the country resumed. However, resuming trade with India through the Benapole-Petrapole checkpoint has been problematic.
Although businessmen informed the port authorities of both countries about their losses, trading at the port did not resume. At one point–as a result of the effort of the railways, customs, port authorities, and businessmen–the two countries agreed to resume trade by using parcel vans running on railroads.
Currently, cargo trains, sidedoor cargo trains, and parcel vans on the railway–along with vehicles on the roads–are being used to carry goods through the port.
Benapole Railway Station Master Md Saiduzzaman said 51,012 tonnes of goods were carried by the railway through the port in July. The Bangladesh Railway earned Tk2.70 crore in revenue from the port at that time.
In the first 20 days of August, 28,000 tonne goods were carried through the port, which brought revenue of Tk1.5 crore.
Along with the businessmen and the government, the labourers at the port were also relieved when the trading at the port resumed as the shutdown over Covid-19 had made their condition miserable.
Aminul Huq, vice-president of the Import-Export Association at Benapole Port, said, "The businessmen often faced losses due to blockades, strikes, and workers' dissatisfaction at Petrapole Port. Sometimes, importing goods from India took more than a month. Now there is no such problem, because we can import all sorts of goods by the railway."
President of Benapole Clearing and Forwarding Association Mafizur Rahman Sajan said, "Some businessmen in India created a syndicate to bar trucks from moving–for months–using Covid-19 as an excuse. Importing goods via that [Benapole's] railway began amid this situation."
Mafizur hopes that the government will earn Tk10,000 crore revenue in the current fiscal year if the import trade at the port continues like this.
Deputy Director of Benapole Port Mamun Kabir Tarafder said, "The port has the capacity to accommodate only 51,000 tonnes of goods, but currently there are more than 1.5 lakh tonne goods at the port. Traffic congestion at the port has decreased as the importers are using the railway along with the roads."
Matiur Rahman, chairman of Benapole unit of Indo-Bangla Chamber of Commerce, said, "The Benapole port has been suffering from a crisis of space for a long time. We have repeatedly demanded an expansion of space at the port, but no one has paid heed to it."